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Pursuing Happiness


In 1988, Bobby McFerrin recorded Don’t Worry, Be Happy and won Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance. [McFerrin made all the sounds himself.] Robin Williams and Bill Irwin joined McFerrin on the YouTube video.[] Crazy, gleeful, unrealistic – but, aside from a warm puppy, isn’t that what happiness is?

Next to articles about making and keeping resolutions, January lifestyle reports emphasize the traits of happy people. Americans believe in “happiness.” Our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain states very clearly that everyone has certain unalienable rights, among them “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Though as Benjamin Franklin later pointed out, the Pursuit of Happiness does not necessarily mean it can be caught.

Despite Jane Austin’s pithy observation that “a large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of,” experts inform us that happiness is not a monetary experience.  In fact, one is happier giving money away than acquiring it, and the best way to acquire money is not by pursuing it, but by following your passion.

How happy are you?  Professor Martin Seligman contends that authentic happiness is not a social event, nor even a pleasurable pastime. The greatest happiness comes from engaging in an activity so intensely we become unconscious of time – we are in a state of flow. This is further enhanced if the activity is meaningful – if it relates to something greater than ourselves.


Kate Bratskeir’s article on the Habits of Supremely Happy People is more direct. She advises us to

  • Surround ourselves with happy people.
  • Decide  to cultivate happiness.
  • Laugh
  • Be Resilient
  • And Look on the Bright Side of Life

Thinking about the bright side of life brings to mind another quirky, strange, and yet cheerful song from Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) No matter what life throws at you, keep looking at the bright side, and, if you can, whistle.

For more information:

Martin Seligman is Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. For more insight into Seligman’s research into authentic happiness, view his 2004 TED Talk on You Tube. 

Kate Bratskeir’s Huffington Post article on the Habits of Supremely Happy People is at

Don’t Worry Be Happy button courtesy of Krol111 – May 28, 2013. Commons Attribution, Wikimedia Commons

Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

 Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.


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